Anyone who knew my Grandma Anne knows she was an excellent cook. My earliest memories of time spent at Papa and Grandma’s house are steeped in the scent of Grandma’s perfume mingling with sauteed onions and bell peppers. Each Thanksgiving, Grandma ran the show. Her sweet potatoes, dressing, and squash soup are all memorable, but for me the defining dish of the holiday was always the cranberries. She would have made them ahead, and while she prepared the rest of the dinner, they would sit all alone on the dining room table in an ivory-colored porcelain dish, looking like so many rubies. In my younger years they sat right at eye’s height and within arm’s reach, and before dinner time came, I would hungrily sneak a few glossy berries from the bowl when no one was looking.
In the years since Grandma passed, I have made the cranberries, both because I can’t have Thanksgiving without them and because I sense her presence beside me as I make them. We have a copy of her recipe–an old, yellowed clipping from the newspaper–but having made it once, I know that it is not her exact formula. She most certainly tweaked it as she saw fit over the years, not caring to write down the changes because she knew them by heart. So I took the recipe and made it my own, adjusting until I deemed it suitable for a cook as remarkable as Grandma Anne.
What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
my favorite Thanksgiving cranberries
12-16 oz. cranberries
1 C of lightly packed dark brown sugar
juice and zest of one orange
one large handful of raisins
~1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
~1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
8 black peppercorns
6 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
Place the peppercorns, allspice, and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it closed. Combine all of the ingredients, including the spice in a medium-sized pot over medium low heat and bring up to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until some berries have burst and the sauce is slightly thickened and glossy. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before removing the spice bundle and storing the cranberries in the fridge. Serve at room temperature or slightly cool. Can be made a few days ahead.